Missouri School District Reinstates Corporal Punishment
Cassville School District, in southwestern Missouri, brought back corporal punishment as a “last resort” if parents agree to the punishment for their child(ren).
The school district dropped the punishment in 2001, but reinstated corporal punishment for the district’s 1,900 students after parents, students, and school employees expressed concern about student behavior and the resulting discipline on an anonymous survey.
Merlyn Johnson, Cassville school superintendent, explained the reinstatement, “The complaints that we have heard from some of our parents is that they don’t want their students suspended. They want another option. And so, this was just another option that we could use before we get to that point of suspension.” He stated that parents have asked, “Why can’t you paddle my student?” and such questions led to “conversations with parents and there had been requests from parents for us to look into” reinstating corporal punishment.
The Missouri school district’s policy says that corporal punishment may be used “only when all other alternative means of discipline have failed, and then only in reasonable form and upon the recommendation of the principal.” “When it becomes necessary to use corporal punishment, it shall be administered so that there can be no chance of bodily injury or harm,” the policy says. “Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted.” The only allowed corporal punishment is “swatting the buttocks with a paddle.” A witness from the district must be present, but other students may not be present for the punishment.
Nationwide, corporal punishment (generally paddling) in schools is legal in 19 states, most in the South. Thirty-one states and DC ban corporal punishment, though three allow teachers to use “a reasonable degree of force” on a child who is creating a disturbance.
Some hope the Cassville School district change of policy will open debate about corporal punishment. Professor Elizabeth T. Gershoff stated, “Most of the country thinks this was abolished a long time ago. It’s reminding a lot of people that we need to be talking about this. Do we think it’s OK that the state is hitting children in our name? And, if not, we should work toward abolishing it.”
1. Should corporal punishment be used in K-12 schools? Why or why not?
2. What sort of action should be taken when a student misbehaves in school? Consider various types of misbehavior from small graffiti to fighting. Why would you pair each misbehavior with the action?
3. Many experts believe positive reinforcement is more effective than punishments. What sort of positive reinforcement could be used at schools to prevent misbehavior? Why do you believe those actions would be effective?
1. Heather Hollingsworth and Margaret Stafford, “Missouri School District Reinstates Spanking If Parents OK,” abcnews.go.com, Aug. 26, 2022
2. Maya Yang, “Missouri School District Reinstates Spanking If Parents OK.,” the guardian.com, Aug. 25, 2022
3. Michael Levenson, “Paddling Makes a Comeback in a Missouri School District,” nytimes.com, Aug. 27, 2022